Feast Day celebration in Clewiston

St. Margaret of Scotland, patroness and eponym of the Catholic Parish in Clewiston, was canonized for her concern with and ministry to the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, and the sick. She built schools and hospitals and spent time each day listening to the needs of the people in the outer court of the castle where she reigned as queen with her husband, Malcolm III.

“The history of St. Margaret Parish has continued the witness of St. Margaret,” Bishop Dewane said during a Mass honoring the Saint on Nov. 19, 2023. “I am pleased and honored to be here with all of you today as you honor your patroness, someone who lived a long time ago and far away. You do honor St. Margaret today, but you also do this in how you live your lives, responding to the needs of the community with compassion.”

The celebration included a bilingual Mass (English and Spanish), and this was followed in the Parish Hall with a feast.

Father Jean Woady Louis, Administrator of St. Margaret Parish, expressed his gratitude for the presence of Bishop Dewane and explained that the Parish is proud of its heritage, serving the faithful in Hendry County since 1932.

The Feast of St. Margaret is celebrated on Nov. 16, and honors a Saint who was born in Hungary in 1045 and died in 1093. She was canonized in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV as a Saint, acknowledging her life of holiness and extraordinary virtue. She was honored for her work for reform of the Church and her personal holiness.

St. Margaret is best remembered for her love of the poor. When she walked or rode out in public, crowds of the needy flocked to her, and none left her without being comforted.

Although very generous with material gifts, St. Margaret also visited the sick and nursed them with her own hands. She and her husband were also renowned for serving orphans and the poor on their knees during Advent and Lent.

Youth challenged to reflect on their relationship with Jesus

Each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, giving us everything we have, from the sun in the sky, to the food we eat and the clothes we wear. How we respond to that gift from God will define who we are, and who we are becoming.

This was the straightforward message shared with more than 500 youth at two separate retreats on Nov. 11, 2023. Building on Jesus’ questioning of the Apostles in the Gospel of Matthew (16:13-20), the two retreats focused on engaging the teens to think about their personal relationship with the Lord, and how they would answer the question Jesus posed to the Apostles, “Who do you say that I am?”

At St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres, more than 300 Hispanic youth from Parishes in Lee and Collier counties gathered for a day of prayer and reflection in a presentation led by the group Los Hermanos Unidos. Among the first speakers were Father Christian Chami, Parochial Vicar at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota, and Father Daniel Scanlan, Parochial Vicar at St. Thomas More Parish in Sarasota.

The second group included 170 high school sophomores from nine different Parishes in Sarasota and Manatee counties, who gathered at the Zazarino Center of St. Martha Catholic School for a Confirmation Retreat. The theme of the retreat was “Hearts on Fire, Ablaze, Live Out Loud,” and the guest speaker was Jimmy Mitchell, founder of Love Good. Mitchell is also the director of campus ministry at Jesuit Catholic High School in Tampa.

At both retreats, the youth heard about the need to build their personal relationship with the Lord, the importance of prayer and virtue, and how to find their vocation in life.

Father Chami told the Lehigh Acres group that a vocation to the priesthood, religious life, married life, or consecrated single life, is how you choose to respond positively to God because he made us intentionally and personally. Father continued by saying that a vocation is a free choice that comes from an open dialogue with God by going to Mass and through personal prayer time.

“If you take the time, God will make it clear what you are called to do and will help make evident what He is calling you to do,” Father Chami said. “Believe me. By choosing to follow the Lord, you will not regret it. It is the best life you can live. It is not always easy, but it is the most joyful and wonderful life.”

Father Scanlan said his vocation to the priesthood was a way that he could give himself completely to God.

“It is our prayer that you have a personal encounter with God today and every day,” Father Scanlan said. “When you get to know God, you can answer that question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ What is more important in your life? Does God have a place in your life?”

Each teen will answer that question differently, but Father Scanlan said that they must keep their hearts open to listening and hearing the call of God in their life.

“God is always reaching out to you,” Father said. “Are you listening?”

The day in Lehigh Acres also included Eucharistic Adoration, the opportunity for the teens to go to confession, small group activities and more.

Both retreats concluded with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In addition, in Sarasota, the teens took part in service projects that included making “Get Well” cards for those sick in the hospital, bagging lunches for the homeless, and making Christmas treat bags for children in foster care.

Thousands attend Hispanic Fall Festival

Beautiful weather accompanied a day filled with food, fun, entertainment and lots of smiling faces for the 19th Annual Hispanic Festival at St. Jude Parish in Sarasota.

An estimated 10,000 people gathered at St. Jude for this event on Nov. 4, 2023, a celebration of both the individual nations and the unified culture of a diverse Parish.

Held annually in early November this annual Festival is the oldest one in Sarasota County to feature authentic Latino food, music and culture. The day includes musical performances and ethnic dancers as well as food from many nations. Throughout the Parish grounds were tents full of a wide variety of foods that left many mouths watering. People attend the event annually from as far away as Naples and Clearwater. It has become a much anticipated and beloved event for the ethnically diverse Sarasota Parish.

The celebration of more than a dozen countries lasted from morning until sunset. Throughout the day, there were performances, offering folk and modern music, and dance. Many proudly wore clothing representing their country of origin.

Martha Perez, 11, enjoyed trying a variety of foods, including papas rellenas from the Cuban food tent, which is a meat-filled potato ball. The highlight of the day for the young girl was the various dancers who wore colorful dresses. “It was so wonderful to see them dancing to such beautiful songs.”

The Hispanic Festival opened with prayer, followed by a “Parade of Flags” as each country represented at the festival was announced, and the respective flags brought forth cheers.

As a bilingual Parish, the members of both the English and the Spanish speaking congregation at St. Jude participated and volunteered to staff the booths.

Whether it was the food, the music, the dancing, or the joy of being around so many happy people, the Hispanic Festival was a success by any measure.

The proceeds of the Hispanic Festival go to support the various outreach efforts of St. Jude Parish, including a food pantry and other programs which help countless families throughout the year.

News Briefs for the week of November 3, 2023

Seminarian Admitted to Candidacy

Diocese of Venice Seminarian Joseph Bao Quoc Nguyen took a significant step in his vocation journey with his Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders. He was one of four men to be admitted to candidacy on Oct. 25, 2023, at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. The Rite was presided over by Most Rev. Earl K. Fernandes, Bishop of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio. During the Rite, each man expressed his intention to complete his preparation for Holy Orders and his resolve to dedicate himself to that goal. To be admitted to candidacy, Seminarian Nguyen had to have been first approved by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, and will continue his studies to become a Catholic priest.

Bishop celebrates Mass for students on All Saints’ Day

Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated Mass for students at both St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers and St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, 2023. In his message to the students, Bishop Dewane said it is important to learn about these Saints who are described as ordinary people of faith who lived extraordinary lives. They lived their lives in response to a call to holiness from the Lord. The Bishop asked the students at both Masses to respond to a call to holiness in their own lives.

Decline to Sign Petition for Dangerous Pro-Abortion Ballot Initiative

An extremely grave initiative is underway in Florida that seeks to erase pro-life protections by inserting language into the Florida State Constitution banning regulation of abortion. Abortion activists are working to gather petition signatures to place a pro-abortion constitutional amendment, titled “Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion” on the November 2024 ballot. This amendment would allow abortion up until birth, including when the baby is capable of feeling pain, and would eliminate laws requiring parental consent and safety protocols for women. Floridians should not sign the petition. Please spread the word to your spheres of influence and continue to pray for the protection of the unborn.

All Saints’ Day Party held in Wauchula

Saints of all ages participated in the annual All Saints’ Day Party at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula on Oct. 28, 2023. Children dressed as the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Michael the Archangel were the most common costumes. Others dressed as St. Joseph, angels, popes, bishops and even superheroes. The evening included food, games and lots of candy. Prior to the party, there was an All Saints’ Day procession, led by a statue of St. Michael the Archangel and directed by the Servant Sisters of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará who serve the Parish.

Veteran’s Day Ball in Ave Maria

The Knights of Columbus of Ave Maria invite all to a Veteran’s Day Grand Ball, on Saturday, November 11, in the del Webb Grand Hall. The keynote speaker is Most Rev. Joseph L. Coffey, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA. The evening begins with a 6:00 p.m. cocktail hour/cash bar, with a 7:00 p.m. program, dinner and dancing. Black tie is optional for civilians, active duty military and veterans are asked to wear dinner dress or Class A Uniform. Tickets are $125 per person and seating is limited. For tickets, go to https://www.avemariakofc.org/.

National Night of Prayer for Life

The 2023 Annual National Night of Prayer for Life marks its 34th anniversary of people across the country praying to convert America’s heart to cherish life and encourage living the Gospel of Life.  It unites the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with the Feast of St. Juan Diego from Friday, December 8, at 9:00 p.m. to Saturday, December 9, at 1:00 a.m., with a national hour of unity across all time zones from midnight to 1:00 a.m.  People are invited to join in unity of prayer to restore the protection of life, the family, and the church, establish peace and inspire courage in our nation.  For more information, see www.nationalnightofprayerforlife.org, or contact Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

Gloria Concert in Naples

St. Peter the Apostle Parish, 5130 Rattlesnake Hammock Road, Naples, is hosting a free Gloria Concert at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, December 14. The concert will include all the Parish choirs of various languages (English, Spanish and Creole) as well as a children’s pageant. For further details, please contact Nancy Spolsino at 239-774-3037.

Hispanic Festival a part of Parish Jubilee

When it comes to planning the 50th Jubilee of the Parish, there is an option to host one large celebration or to be more inclusive and include commemorations which reflect the broad cultural diversity of the faith community. St. Peter the Apostle Parish, erected in Naples on June 11, 1974, has opted to host many Jubilee celebrations in the coming months, culminating in a big event in June 2024.

Therefore, Oct. 22, 2023, was the day of a Hispanic Festival at St. Peter’s, with more than 1,000 celebrating this diverse community with food, music, dance and ethnic clothing.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was present and offered a prayer for the Festival participants, as well as for the continued success of the ongoing Parish Jubilee celebrations.

Father Gerard Critch, St. Peter the Apostle Pastor, said he was pleased by the response to the Hispanic Festival and said he was delighted to have such a vibrant Parish community that includes people of many different backgrounds.

Father Wilian Montalvo Tello, Parochial Vicar at St. Peter who supports the spiritual needs of the Hispanic community, was overjoyed by the celebration, and held a wide grin as he wore the traditional clothing of his native Peru.

Also present was Father Alejandro Giraldo-Roldan, Parochial Vicar serving the Hispanic faithful at nearby St. Elizabeth Seton and St. Agnes Parishes. Father is a native of Columbia who was ordained to the priesthood in July.

The Festival began with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This was followed by a procession and music led by performers dressed in Mayan and Aztec garb.

Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, participants had the opportunity to sample cuisine from more than a dozen Latin American countries. On the stage, there was a constant rotation of singers and dancers from the various countries.

As the music played, many sang along with the more traditional ballads. Throughout, nearly everyone present had small flags on their lapels, while most wore hats and traditional clothing or the colors of their homeland. Another option was to wear a shirt of the national sports team.

No matter where everyone was from, be it Latin America, the United States or elsewhere, a great time was had by all. As Father Critch explained, everyone better be prepared to party over and over again as the Jubilee celebration continues!

Hundreds Venerate Jesus in Eucharistic Procession

Reciting prayers and singing hymns, hundreds participated in a public Eucharistic Procession through the streets around St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples on Oct. 22, 2023.

This procession consisted mostly of the faithful from nearby St. Elizabeth Seton Parish and was led by their Pastor, Father Casey Jones, and is one of several initiatives scheduled as part of “The Year of Parish Revival,” the latest phase of a National Eucharistic Revival. Launched as an initiative of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in June 2022, the National Eucharistic Revival is a three-year movement that aims to deepen Catholics’ love for Jesus through encountering His Real Presence in the Eucharist.

“This event is all about bringing Jesus Christ to the neighborhoods of the people,” Father Jones said. “The message is that our God loves us so much that he comes to us, rather than waiting for us to approach him. Just as Jesus Christ of Nazareth walked the streets of Galilee, He’s still alive and walks among us on our streets… We hope to give a witness to our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist as a sign of Hope to a world that needs a Savior.”

Starting in Neumann’s Our Lady of the Angels Chapel with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Solemn Vespers, the group lined up for the Eucharistic Procession through the surrounding Golden Gate neighborhood. Father Jones said additional processions in other neighborhoods within the Parish boundaries will take place in the coming months. This includes one with the students at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School during Catholic School Week in early February 2024.

With a Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and a dozen altar servers carrying candles, Father Jones and Deacon Roberto Landron rotated carrying the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament held high. Four volunteers carried a canopy to protect the Blessed Sacrament during the procession. This canopy served to create a sacred space that is reserved for the priest/deacon carrying the monstrance.

Hymns and prayers, both in English and Spanish, were heard as the group departed the Chapel and meandered their way to four stations where the monstrance was placed on a table and additional prayers were recited.

The National Eucharistic Revival will culminate in the first National Eucharistic Congress in the United States in almost 50 years. In July 2024, more than 80,000 Catholics are expected to join together in Indianapolis for a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage in a celebration of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and our Catholic Faith.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane is leading a Pilgrimage to this 10th National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. This historic 5-day gathering will take place July 17 – 21, 2024. It is a pivotal moment in the Church, and a unique opportunity for participants to draw into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Our Lord.

The cost of the Diocese of Venice pilgrimage package is $1,049. With the package, pilgrims receive the National Eucharistic Congress 5-day pass, which provides access to all speakers and events, as well as four nights’ accommodations in a 4-star hotel within walking distance of the convention center. Please note, the pilgrimage package does not include transportation or meals. Space is limited! Register today using https://ctscentral.rezmagic.com/Booking/Reservation/Start?tripID=5394&CategoryId=52540. Questions? Contact Carrie Harkey, harkey@dioceseofvenice.org.

Naples teacher recognized with state Hispanic Heritage Award

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School Spanish Teacher Fabiola Galarraga-Cole is one of only four teachers in the State of Florida to be honored with the 2023 Florida Hispanic Heritage Excellence in Education Award.

Cole has been at St. Elizabeth Seton in Naples since 2017 and teaches weekly Spanish classes to students in Grades Pre-Kindergarten-8. In addition to her teaching role, she organizes events like the Latin Zumba Fiesta and Student Talent Show, and serves as Yearbook and Spanish Club Advisor, while also directing the school’s musical productions.

“I was surprised and honored to be selected for this award!” Cole said. “It is such a privilege to represent St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School and my Hispanic heritage. Receiving this special award from the Governor of Florida and visiting the Governor’s mansion was an amazing and unforgettable experience for my family and myself. My heart is full of gratitude to God, the generous sponsors, and all those who nominated me.”

Seton Principal Maria Niebuhr said, “We are proud that our very own Senorita Cole was recognized as one of only four in the state of Florida for this award. She is so deserving as you will find her in and out of the classroom displaying excellence. Senorita Cole gives 100% and we are blessed to have her as part of our school family.”

The Hispanic Heritage Excellence in Education Award winners were selected from nominations sent in by principals, teachers, parents or guardians, and students.

The award was presented to Cole by Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis during a reception at the Florida Governor’s Mansion on Oct. 10, 2023, with her family in attendance. In recognition for her achievement, she was also awarded $2,500 from Volunteer Florida.

Cole holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish from John Carroll University and a Master of Education specializing in Latin America and International Studies. She is a distinguished member of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Spanish Honor Society.

With 14 years of experience in Catholic education, Cole firmly believes in the value of Catholic schools, particularly highlighting St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School for its nurturing, family-oriented environment that combines Catholic values and traditions with academic excellence, fostering students’ spiritual, intellectual, physical, and social growth.

This recognition reflects Cole’s commitment to education and her remarkable contributions to her students and the community.

Affordable housing community blessed in Zolfo Spring

The recently completed Casa San Alfonso affordable housing community with 21 single-family homes in Zolfo Springs was blessed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Sept. 28, 2023.

“Housing continues to be a vital concern and need for people throughout Florida,” Bishop Dewane said. “We’re pleased to support Zolfo Springs with affordable rental housing that will provide comfort and a sense of belonging for local residents.”

The Diocese of Venice partnered on the project with National Development of America, Inc., and supported by Zolfo Springs and Hardee County.

“We’re very grateful for our partnership with the Diocese of Venice and the strong support from county and city officials to help bring this project to fruition,” said John Raymond, director of real estate for National Development of America. “Casa San Alfonso is the perfect example of how a community can come together to achieve something impactful.”

Zolfo Springs Mayor Rod Cannon was overjoyed by the project and complimented the quality of the work noting that there were nearby tracts of land available if the Diocese was interested in expanding the project.

“This is beautiful. I am really overwhelmed by it,” Cannon said. “I have been excited about this whole project from the moment I learned about it to this day. We are blessed to have it, especially as it is available to families who might not have any other housing options in our community.”

Justin Smith, with the Development Group in Hardee County, said the county initially did not have a policy in place to support affordable housing but was able to back the housing project through grants to help make the finances work.

During the ceremony, Bishop Dewane offered a special thank you to the faithful of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula for their support of the project. Casa San Alfonso is located on repurposed land that was once used as a Mission of St. Michael.

Representing the Parish at the ceremony were Father Wilner Durosier, CS, Father Juan Lorenzo, women religious of the Servant Sisters of the Blessed Virgin of Matara, as well as many of the faithful.

Father Durosier said he was excited about the project and promised to promote the housing opportunities to the faithful.

The Diocese of Venice and National Development embarked on Casa San Alfonso in 2020 to address the growing demand for affordable rental housing in Hardee County. Additional affordable housing projects within Hardee County are already in the development process.

National Development of America will manage Casa San Alfonso which will provide affordable housing for qualified residents – those who make 50-60% of the Average Median Income. Monthly rents range from $673 to $976.

The community features 17 – 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom homes, and 4 – 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom homes, complete with new appliances. Amenities include an onsite clubhouse with a computer lab, and charming walking trails throughout the neighborhood, which is situated on a large outdoor greenspace of 12 total acres.

Casa San Alfonso is now leasing. Interested applicants should submit a leasing form at form.jotform.com/231163616210140 or email alfonso@ndcassetmanagement.com for more information.


News Briefs for the week of October 6, 2023

Bishop encourages students to be “Disciples of Christ”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane continued his tour of the Diocese of Venice Catholic schools with his latest Mass on Sept. 29, 2023, at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte. During the Mass, the Bishop encouraged the students to live out their lives as “Disciples of Christ.” This means they need to follow the Lord’s guidance as an example in their words and actions, particularly how they interact with their family, friends and even strangers.

Scout hike at retreat center

The annual Diocese of Venice Scout 10 Commandment Hike returned to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice on Sept. 30, 2023. More than 100 Scouts and American Heritage Girls from across the Diocese gathered at the retreat center to learn about the 10 Commandments. The hike included the 10 stations where the different commandments were explained by members of the Knights of Columbus. Also present were Diocesan Scout Chaplain Father Lawton Lang, who is also Administrator of San Antonio Parish in Port Charlotte, as well as Marthamaria Morales, Diocesan Youth and Young Adult Ministry Director. The 2022 hike was cancelled because of Hurricane Ian.

Parish celebrates multicultural Feast Day

The faithful at St. Michael Parish in Wauchula took part in a special Feast Day Mass and celebration on Sept. 30, 2023. The celebration took place one day after the official Feast of the Archangels of Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (Sept. 29), and included a procession with prayers and music as a large statue of St. Michael the Archangel was pulled along on a trailer. This led directly to a trilingual Mass (English, Spanish and Creole), which represented the multicultural aspect of the Hardee County community. Following the Mass was a festival of food and music.

CCW hosts Comedy Night

The Venice Diocesan Council of Catholic Women hosted a night of fun, wine, cheese, and comedy on Sept. 29, 2023, at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Venice. More than 200 attended the event. Entertainment for the evening included comedian Juanita Lolita who is an actress, writer and nationally touring stand-up comedian. The half Puerto Rican and half West Virginian, Juanita Lolita joked about her personal experience and centers her comedy on her Christian faith, and she had the crowd laughing out loud from start to finish.

Students show off talents during STREAM night

The annual St. Andrew Catholic School STREAM Night was a huge success. Taking place on Sept. 28, 2023, the evening is a showcase of the student’s science and technology skills at different stations throughout the Cape Coral school. All 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools offer a comprehensive STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math) learning model which is combined with the Diocesan curriculum called, “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence,” creating students equipped to succeed in the world of today. The evening at St. Andrew allowed parents to see what their children are doing on a daily basis. Classrooms were set up to allow visitors (student or parent) to work on different science experiments or work with assorted technology to accomplish different tasks. In many cases it was difficult to discern if the students or the parents were having the most fun!

Vocations Weekend

If you are a young man (high school age or above) and sense that the Lord is calling you to the priesthood, St. John Vianney College Seminary is hosting a free Vocations Weekend. The event begins with pizza and night prayer on Friday evening, Oct. 27, 2023, and ends with Holy Mass and brunch on Sunday, Oct. 29. Join with other discerners from around the state of Florida to experience a glimpse of seminary life, meet the young men who are already studying for the priesthood as seminarians, and join with them in prayer and fraternity during this awesome weekend retreat. (The typical schedule for the weekend includes adoration, spiritual talks, daily Mass, personal testimonies from seminarians, meet and greet with the professors, a campus tour, games and sports.) For more information and to RSVP, please visit venicevocations.org or email Father Shawn Roser, the Director of Vocations at the Diocese of Venice at roser@dioceseofvenice.org or call 941-486-4720.

Traveling Rosary Congress

In celebration of the Blessed Virgin, 31 Parishes in the Diocese of Venice will be participating in a Traveling Rosary Congress from Oct. 6 – Oct. 14, 2023. During the Rosary Congress, the host Parishes will provide the hourly praying of the Holy Rosary as well as Eucharistic Adoration. Many of the Parishes taking part will also have the celebration of the Mass at the opening and closing of a 24-hour period of Adoration, while others will have at least a large period of time dedicated to praying the rosary and adoration. In addition, several Parishes will make the Sacrament of Reconciliation available during specific times. For a complete Diocesan schedule, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/evangelization/traveling-rosary-congress-2023/ or contact Jim Gontis at 941-484-9543 or gontis@dioceseofvenice.org.

40 Days for Life continues

The 40 Days for Life fall campaign is ongoing and runs through Nov. 5, 2023, seeking a peaceful end to abortion in the U.S. and around the world through the power of prayer. It is the presence of more than one million prayer warriors in 681 cities worldwide – including Fort Myers, Naples, and Sarasota within the Diocese of Venice – that will make a difference in this important battle to save the unborn. The prayer vigil in Fort Myers is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 6418 Commerce Park Drive. In Sarasota, the vigil is daily, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (7 days a week), at 736 Central Ave. The Naples prayer vigil is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Mon. – Sat.), at 1425 Creech Road. For more information, please visit https://www.40daysforlife.com/en/, or contact Diocesan Respect Life Director Jeanne Berdeaux at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

Boots and Bandanas helps support Ian recovery

Nearly a year ago the winds and flooding rains of Hurricane Ian displaced many families in DeSoto, Hardee and Highlands counties. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., was on the front lines helping desperate people get the basics necessary for survival.

Today, the recovery is ongoing but the need to support families in the region remains. Large swaths of these counties had severe wind damage compounded by river flooding that washed away homes and displaced thousands of families.

In support of the ongoing recovery efforts in the region, the Boots and Bandanas Gala took place on Sept. 23, 2024, at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch. On hiatus for the past few years, the event has a country-western theme which reflects the rural communities.

Catholic Charities programs is this region includes food pantries, farmworker housing, financial assistance, after school programming, and much more.

“Your support will go a long way to helping these needy families get the help they need,” said Eddie Gloria, CEO of Catholic Charities. “There continues to be a tremendous need in this area even a year after Ian.”

Gloria said that Catholic Charities helped more than 100,000 in the first months following the hurricane on Sept. 28, 2022, but that the demand for continued assistance in the rural communities of DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties remains high.

After Ian, St. Paul Parish in Arcadia and St. Michael Parish in Wauchula served as distribution points for food and water and other emergency supplies, even while floodwaters surrounded the communities.

In fact, at both Parishes, people rallied to bring fresh food and hot meals to help feed their neighbor in need. In Wauchula, the religious sisters hosted an evening barbeque for two weeks after the storm passed. In addition, at both Parishes, donated clothing was also made available for those families who lost everything to flooding. Later, donated furniture and other necessities for rebuilding lives were donated and distributed. That work continues one year later.

In addition, Catholic Charities, helped by volunteers, organized a point of distribution of food, water, tarps, cleaning supplies and more, with the assistance of the National Guard and FEMA.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was one of many who volunteered his time at both locations in the days following Ian and saw the need in the area. While Bishop Dewane was unable to be at the Boots and Bandanas Gala due to a prior commitment, a message of gratitude for the ongoing support of Catholic Charities was shared.

The Boots and Bandanas event was on hiatus because of Hurricane Ian and other logistical issues, before Father Sebastian Szczawínski, Pastor of Our Lady of the Angels, enthusiastically offered to host the gala for the first time.

The evening included a live auction item of dinner with Father Szczawínski, which two bidders won, as well as a wide assortment of silent auction items. The meal was provided by Mission BBQ, while the music was from Arcadia native Andy Pursell and his band.

“We’re happy that all these people came out, and we’re loving the fact that we can wear these boots and bandanas and make it a fun night for everyone,” Gloria said.

If you would like to support Catholic Charities in its mission to help those in need, please visit https://catholiccharitiesdov.org/.